Law Limiting Bearded Firefighters Causes Problems For Amish
Mar. 30, 1988
WARREN, Ohio (AP) _ A new law that forbids bearded firefighters to enter burning buildings is worrying fire officials whose departments have Amish volunteers.
Ohio requires firefighters to wear a self-contained breathing apparatus to enter a burning building or an area with harmful fumes.
The apparatus has a face piece that provides clean air from a tank the firefighter wears on his back, said John Wood, basic training coordinator for the Ohio Fire Marshal's office.
On March 1, a new law went into effect that prohibits bearded men from wearing the devices because facial hair can prevent a seal from forming between the face and the face piece.
Most Amish men are bearded and won't shave because of their religious beliefs. There are several Amish communities in northeastern Ohio.
''It makes it hard for a lot of volunteer fire departments,'' Wood said. ''I really don't know what we can tell them to do.''
In Trumbull County's Mesopotamia Township, half the population is Amish, said Fire Chief Keith Williams, and three of the community's four daytime firefighters have beards.
The town can't afford to give up its Amish firefighters, Williams said Tuesday.
''I put out a standing order. Yet if they have a structural fire during the day, I know they're going to put the SCBAs on and go in. They're going to disregard my standing order,'' he said.
''Under normal circumstances, that's grounds for disciplinary action. But on the other hand, I can't condemn them for doing what they're supposed to do - saving life and property.''
Wood said communities and firefighters won't be fined for violating the law. But if a bearded firefighter gets injured fighting a fire in which he needed a self-contained breathing apparatus, the state will be able to collect half his worker's compensation pay from the community.